Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Managing Your Move: Unpacking

Moving can create a huge mess.
When you prepare to move, it's the front end details that occur to you first. Strategizing which items to pack first and planning out whether you will hire movers or rent a truck is, ultimately the easy part, and only takes a little planning. But many people neglect to plan for how they are going to unpack once they arrive in their new home. It's hard to strategize unpacking-- you simply aren't as familiar with the space as you were with your previous residence, and you are often already tired and overwhelmed by the time your house is filled with boxes. Often your furniture and organizational systems aren't yet fine tuned to the new space, making it more difficult to find a home for everything. If you can manage a little extra effort from wherever you collapsed after the truck was unloaded, the whole process will go much more smoothly and get you settled in much faster.

Before you move, make a priority box- filled with the items you will need immediately upon move in, like toilet paper, light bulbs, toiletries, a change of clothes, sheets, important documents, etc. Next, plan ahead for a room or area where, as you or the movers unload the truck, the lowest priority items can go. This may be knickknacks, the good china, off season clothes and bedding, or some other thing you won't need right away. That way these items won't get in the way of the things that need to be unpacked first. By keeping the boxes as out of way as possible in a spare room or the center of rooms, you will be better able to arrange furniture and settle on a layout. Don't forget about rugs. They have to come up after the furniture leaves the old house and go down before those big pieces at your new home. 

If possible, clean the new place from top to bottom before your belongings arrive. The previous owner, tenant, or landlord probably cleaned, but in all likelihood did so in a hurry and with the knowledge that all that scrubbing wasn't for them. You might feel better knowing that you did the job right yourself, especially in the bathroom or kitchen. Should you plan on painting, laying down new floor, or any other significant cosmetic adjustments, these changes are easier to make while the house is still empty. It's also a good idea, if your schedule permits, to set up the kitchen and bathroom a day or two before the big move. These are rooms you will need to use right away, and setting them up first will make it easier to function in your new home as you unpack the rest. If you are making a long distance move, or for other reasons can't do this ahead of time, try to unpack these rooms as quickly as possible and get the boxes out of the house. 

After the kitchen and bathroom, unpack with a duel strategy, focusing on the items you need first or already have obvious homes, and the items in the biggest boxes. The more boxes and space hogs you clear out early on, the more room you will have to maneuver and the more it will feel settled. Books and other bulky, heavy items are great to unpack first, as you can quickly and easily get them onto shelves and out of the way. Cleaning supplies can immediately be stowed under the sink or in the closets and laundry rooms where they belong. Clothes also have obvious homes, in closets and your dressers, where they can be put in a hurry. Don't worry about perfecting organization yet. You will find new and more efficient ways to organize your things as you settle in. Things inevitably shift and trade places after the initial move in day as you become used to your new space.

Once your essentials have found homes, it's time to unpack and play with the fun details. Pillows, knickknacks, wall art, will have more obvious homes once the framework of your furniture and other big items have been set. It will be easier to see where different artwork will fit once the furniture has created additional horizontal and vertical lines against the walls. While you have your tool kit out, also put up hooks for hanging planters, fruit baskets, magnetic knife strips, towel racks, and anything else that needs nails and screws. The placement for these items should also be more clear.

Finally, don't pressure yourself to get too much done too quickly. Though you may be eager to return your home to order, taking a little bit of time with your unpacking will help you do it thoughtfully and with care. Taking your time will also keep an overwhelming process more manageable. Like any other cleaning or organizational project, set small goals and time limits to keep frustration to a minimum. Find the balance for you between making the unpacking period brief while still doing it well. If you rush, you'll clear out boxes faster but may need to spend more time later moving furniture, filling holes in the walls from mis-hung mirrors, or fretting over clutter. Be patient with your boxes and yourself, and remember that moving can last sometime beyond moving day.